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Battered Men - The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence

Help for Battered Men

Is She "Crazymaking"?

Borderline Personality Disorder and Abusive Relationships

© 1999 by Bert H. Hoff
Ideas from experts Paul T. Mason, M.S. and Randi Kreger
© 1999 by Bert H. Hoff

Other Resources


Note: If you have been the victim of domestic violence, please e-mail me and tell me about it. What happened? Did you tell anyone about it? Why or why not? Did you seek help? Why or why not? If you did seek help, did you get it? May we publish your story here? We'll do it anonymously, unless you give specific permission to use your name and/or e-mail address.

Know a man who may be battered? Print out this page and give it to him. Often, it'll be enough to get him to talk to you about it -- if not right away, perhaps in a bit. And talking to another man about it is the first step in healing -- in survival.
Remember: TV star and comedian Phil Hartman never talked about his marital problems, either, except to joke about having to leave the house when his wife was mad. He told everyone the marriage was wonderful -- as so many men do.

Are You Battered or Abused?
Check out MenWeb's listing of resources for battered men

Is She "Crazymaking"?

Book cover
Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder
by Paul T. Mason, M.S. and Randi Kreger
Order on-line

More info on their Web site

Paul Mason, M.S.
Paul Mason, M.S.

Randi Kreger
Randi Kreger

Readers have also bought
Book cover
I Hate You-Don't Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality
by Jerold J. Kriesman, M.D. and Hal Straus
Order on-line

Is she "crazymaking?" Do you feel like you need to walk on eggshells all the time? As the authors of Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder point out, women (and men) with Borderline Personality Disorder are frequently abusive. You might want to think about whether this fits your relationship--and do something about it.

We hear that domestic violence is about power and control--specifically, that it's a form of oppression of women. But as Cathy Young observed in Gender War Crimes: Classifying offenses against women as "hate crimes" is a dangerous political game in the Jan. 1999 issue of Reason magazine,

As for domestic violence, University of British Columbia psychologist Donald Dutton and other researchers have found that wife-beating is far more strongly associated with "borderline personality disorder" (characterized by proclivity for intense relationships, insecurity, and rage) than with patriarchal attitudes; drugs and alcohol are major factors as well.

But, as Paul and Randi point out, 75 percent of those diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder are women. And 75 percent of those with BPD have been physically or sexually abused. This lends credence to the idea that domestic violence is a "dance" between two people, not simply patriarchal oppression of women by men, as so many domestic violence Web sites and programs maintain.

Here's a checklist from Stop Walking on Eggshells:

Are you in a relationship with a person with Borderline Personality Disorder?

  • Do you find yourself concealing what you really think or feel because you're afraid of the other person's reaction, and it just doesn't seem worth the horrible fight or hurt feelings that will surely follow? Has this become so automatic that you have a hard time even identifying what you think or feel?
  • Feeling like you're walking on eggshells much of the time, and that no matter what you say or do, it will be twisted and used against you.
  • Being blamed and criticized for everything wrong in the relationship, even when it makes no logical sense.
  • Being the focus of intense, even violent rages that make no logical sense, alternating with periods when the other person acts perfectly normal and loving.
  • Feeling like you're being manipulated, controlled or even lied to sometimes.
  • Feeling like the person you care about sees you as either all good or all bad, with nothing in between. Wishing that the person would act like they used to, when they seemed to love you and think you were perfect and everything was wonderful.
  • Feeling like the other person is like "Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde": one moment a loving, caring person; another moment someone who seems so vicious you barely recognize them. Wondering which one is "real." Hoping that it's a phase that will go away -- but it doesn't. Feeling like you're on an emotional roller coaster with high highs (things are incredible, fantastic) and very low lows (feeling of despair, depression, grief for the relationship you thought you had).
  • Being afraid to ask for things in the relationship because you will be told you're too demanding or there is something wrong with you. Being told that your needs are wrong or not important.
  • Wondering if you're losing your grip on reality because the other person is always putting down or denying your point of view. Plus, the other person often acts just fine in front of other people, so no one believes you when you explain what's going on.
  • Feeling that nothing you do is ever right, and when you do manage to do what the other person wants, suddenly they change their expectations. The rules keep changing and no matter what you do, you can't win. Feeling helpless and trapped.
  • Being accused of doing things you never did and saying things you never said. Feeling misunderstood a great deal of the time, and when you try to explain, the other person doesn't believe you.
  • Being constantly put down, yet when you try to leave the relationship the other person tries to prevent you from leaving in a variety of ways -- anything from declarations of love and promises to change to outright implicit or explicit threats such as "you'll never see the children again" and "no one but me will ever love you."
  • Having a hard time planning anything (social engagement, etc.) because of the other person's moodiness, impulsiveness or unpredictability. Sometimes, even making excuses for their behavior to other people -- or trying to convince yourself that this is normal behavior.
  • Reading the above list and thinking "Oh my God, I had no idea that other people were going through the same thing and that there is a name for this: Borderline Personality Disorder." 

One enthusiastic reader of their book the information in this book was key in his getting out of an abusive relationship. He says:

This is an excellent work. I had been in a relationship with someone with BPD traits for 4 years Each time she goes from rage to distancing herself and then showing me extreme love, I always thought may be I misunderstood her. I knew I was doing everything right but I still blamed myself.

Thanks to this book, I was able to put a name to the behavior. It taught me that I was not doing anything wrong. It taught me that no matter what I might have done, the result would have been the same.

By educating me about BPD, I was able to make an informed decision about the relationship. Thank goodness, now I am free of the emotional pain and abuse I have been through. Now I have taken back my life. Yes, it was a painful decision but I know it will go away with time. The emotional abuse I've been taking would have been for ever.

Here's some information from Paul and Randi's Web site about emotional abuse and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

Emotional / Verbal Abuse and BPD

Many non-borderlines are verbally or emotionally abused by the person who has BPD. Many (but not all) people who have BPD were also verbally abused at some time in their lives. Emotional abuse is insidious. It can be worse than physical abuse.

So what is it? Read the following excerpt from the book The Emotionally Abused Woman: Overcoming Destructive Patterns and Reclaiming Yourself. It's by Beverly Engel, MFCC. It's about 230 pages. Although the book is directed at women, it applies equally to both sexes.

Keep in mind that this book was written for women who are victims of domestic abuse, not for people in BPD situations. Although borderlines may act emotionally (and even physically) abusive, it's crucial to understand that they are not usually trying to harm you. Rather, they are acting out of intense pain, fear, and shame using primitive defenses they may have learned long ago. Moreover, borderlines feel as though they cannot control these reactions.

However -- and here's an important point -- for the non-borderline, the reactions to the abuse are the same. If, after reading this, you feel trapped in an emotionally abusive relationship, please get help. If a child in your home is experiencing this kind of abuse, please do all you can to protect them from its harmful effects.

Emotional abuse is any behavior that is designed to control another person through the use of fear, humiliation, and verbal or physical assaults. It can include verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics like intimidation, manipulation, and refusal to ever be pleased.

Emotional abuse is like brainwashing in that it systematically wears away at the victim's self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in her perceptions, and self-concept. Whether it be by constant berating and belittling, by intimidation, or under the guise of "guidance" or teaching, the results are similar. Eventually, the recipient loses all sense of self and all remnants of personal value.

Emotional abuse cuts to the very core of a person, creating scars that may be longer-lasting than physical ones. With emotional abuse, the insults, insinuations, criticism and accusations slowly eat away at the victim's self-esteem until she is incapable of judging the situation realistically. She has become so beaten down emotionally that she blames herself for the abuse. Her self-esteem is so low that she clings to the abuser.

Emotional abuse victims can become so convinced that they are worthless that they believe that no one else could want them. They stay in abusive situations because they believe they have nowhere else to go. Their ultimate fear is being all alone.

Following are types of emotional abuse:

DOMINATION: Someone wants to control your every action. They have to have their own way, and will resort to threats to get it. When you allow someone else to dominate you, you can lose respect for yourself.
VERBAL ASSAULTS: berating, belittling, criticizing, name calling, screaming, threatening, excessive blaming, and using sarcasm and humiliation. Blowing your flaws out of proportion and making fun of you in front of others. Over time, this type of abuse erodes your sense of self confidence and self-worth.
ABUSIVE EXPECTATIONS: The other person places unreasonable demands on you and wants you to put everything else aside to tend to their needs. It could be a demand for constant attention, frequent sex, or a requirement that you spend all your free time with the person. But no matter how much you give, it's never enough. You are subjected to constant criticism, and you are constantly berated because you don't fulfill all this person's needs.
EMOTIONAL BLACKMAIL: The other person plays on your fear, guilt, compassion, values, or other "hot buttons" to get what they want. This could include threats to end the relationship, the "cold shoulder," or use other fear tactics to control you.
UNPREDICTABLE RESPONSES: Drastic mood changes or sudden emotional outbursts (This is part of the definition of BPD). Whenever someone in your life reacts very differently at different times to the same behavior from you, tells you one thing one day and the opposite the next, or likes something you do one day and hates it the next, you are being abused with unpredictable responses.

This behavior is damaging because it puts you always on edge. You're always waiting for the other shoe to drop, and you can never know what's expected of you. You must remain hypervigilant, waiting for the other person's next outburst or change of mood.

An alcoholic or drug abuser is likely to act this way. Living with someone like this is tremendously demanding and anxiety provoking, causing the abused person to feel constantly frightened, unsettled and off balance.

GASLIGHTING: The other person may deny that certain events occurred or that certain things were said. You know differently. The other person may deny your perceptions, memory and very sanity. (If a borderline has been disassociating, they may indeed remember reality differently than you do.
Dissociation is the state in which, on some level or another, one becomes somewhat removed from "reality," whether this be daydreaming, performing actions without being fully connected to their performance ("running on automatic"), or other, more disconnected actions. It is the opposite of "association" and involves the lack of association, usually of one's identity, with the rest of the world.
CONSTANT CHAOS: The other person may deliberately start arguments and be in constant conflict with others. The person may be "addicted to drama" since it creates excitement. (Many non-BPs also are addicted to drama.)

For more about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), see "What is BPD?" on Paul and Randi's web site.

I urge you to visit their Web site and look at their book, if any of this resonates with you.

Here's more information from The Emotionally Abused Woman: Overcoming Destructive Patterns and Reclaiming Yourself by Beverly Engel (with gender changes):

If you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, you will need to learn how to take care of yourself. You will need to learn how to stop rescuing, to set your personal limits and boundaries, and how to be assertive.

One of the reasons you may have been so attractive to an emotionally abusive person is that it has been clear from the start that you could be manipulated into taking care of her, and furthermore, that her needs were more important than yours. One of the most important things you can do is to begin to put your own needs first.

If you learned as a child that your needs were unimportant, you may believe that taking care of yourself is a selfish act. But your highest responsibility is to yourself. When you take care of your own needs first, you will be able to be a genuinely caring, giving person, not a martyr. Although it will be uncomfortable at first, and you may be afraid that others won't like you unless you are giving to them, keep trying.

Some types of people are attracted to people who are emotionally abusive. They complain, blame, and try to control. Yet they continue to allow others to hurt them. In reality, they are more comfortable complaining and feeling resentful than acknowledging how very hurt and angry they are. They push their thoughts and feelings out of awareness by focusing all their energy on other people. They stay busy so they won't have to think about things and face reality. They ignore problems and pretend they aren't happening. They pretend that things aren't as bad as they really are.

The irony is that as much as a "codependent" feels responsibility for others and takes care of others, he believes deep down that other people are responsible for him. He blames others for his unhappiness and problems, and feels that it's other people's fault that he's unhappy.

Another irony is that while he feels controlled by people and events, he himself is overly controlling. He is afraid of allowing other people to be who they are and of allowing events to happen naturally. An expert in knowing best how things should turn out and how people should behave, the codependent person tries to control others through threats, coercion, advice giving, helplessness, guilt, manipulation, or domination.

A reader from San Rafael, California provides more information about Walking on Eggshells:
I don't know how Randi Kreger and Paul Mason did it, but they have made a singular contribution to the world with their web site and with the publication of this life-saving book. Please allow me to post this from the book for anyone looking for help in or out of a bad situation right now:

Predictable Stages: People who love someone with BPD seem to go through similar stages. The longer the relationship has lasted, the longer each stage seems to take. Although these are listed in the general order in which people go through them, most people move back and forth among different stages.

Confusion Stage. This generally occurs before a diagnosis of BPD is known. Non-BPs struggle to understand why borderlines sometimes behave in ways that seem to make no sense. They look for solutions that seem elusive, blame themselves, or resign themselves to living in chaos. Even after learning about BPD, it can take non-BPs weeks or months to really comprehend on an intellectual level how the BP is personally affected by this complex disorder. It can take even longer to absorb the information on an emotional level.

Outer-Directed Stage. In this stage, non-borderlines turn their attention toward the person with the disorder, urging them to seek professional help, attemping to get them to change, and trying their best not to trigger problematic behavior. People at this stage usually learn all they can about BPD in an effort to understand and empathize with the person they care about. It can take nopn-BPs a long time to acknowledge feelings of anger and grief--especially when the BP is a parent or child. Anger is an extremely common reaction, even though most non-BPs understand on an intellectual level that BPD is not the borderline's fault. Yet because anger seems to be an inappropriate response to a situation that may be beyond the borderline's control, non-BPs often suppress their anger and instead experience depression, hopelessness, and guilt. The chief tasks for non-BPs in this stage include acknowledging and dealing with their own emotions, letting BPs take responsibility for their own actions, and giving up the fantasy that the BP will behave as the non-BP would like them to.

Inner-Directed Stage. Eventually, non-BPs look inward and conduct an honest apparaisal of themselves. It takes two people to have a relationship, and the goal for non-BPs in this stage is to better understand their role in making the relationship what it now is. The objective here is not self-recrimination, but insight and self-discovery.

Decision-Making Stage. Armed with knowledge and insight, non-BPs struggle to make decisions about the relationship. This stage can often take months or years. Non-BPs in this stage need to clearly understand their own values, beliefs, expectations, and assumptions. For example, one man with a physically violent borderline wife came from a conservative family that strongly disapprove of divorce. His friends counseled him to separate from her, but he felt unable to do so because of his concern about how his family would react. You may find that your beliefs and values have served you well throughout your life. Or you may find that you inherited them from your family without determining whether or not they truly reflect who you are. Either way, it is important to be guided by your OWN values--not someone else's.

Resolution Phase. In this final stage, non-BPs implement their decisions and live with them. Depending upon the type of relationship, some non-BPs may, over time, change their minds many times and try different alternatives.


....When it comes to chosen relationships, we found that the BP's willingness to admit they had a problem and seek help was by far the determining factor as to whether the couple stayed together or not....

If you are looking at this right now, know that you are not alone. There are countless others who understand all you have been through for nothing. Get on the non-BP mailing list at Randi Kreger's site and buy this book NOW. It can and will save your life, whatever you decide.

Related: Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome Is she "crazymaking"? Borderline personality disorders are often abusive in relationships, and have often been abused themselves. Here's more information.

Are You Battered or Abused?
Check out MenWeb's listing of resources for battered men

Related: Are You in an Abusive Relationship? A man who had to deal with abuse issues in his own life (and who has started a message board for abused men) looked into the issue of how a man can know if his relationship is abusive. He found two books that focus on women in abusive relationships, but none for men. He has extracted and edited sections from these books, to make them relevant for men. Click here to see what he came up with.

Related: Utra-Sensitive Men and Abusive Relationships. Not just for ultra-sensitive men. Ultra-sensitive men don't have diffrent reactions to an abusive relationship, often, they have more intense reactions. They're magnified, and we can see them more clearly. If you recognize any of the patterns you see in this article, whether or not you're ultra-sensitive, it's time to look at whether your relationship is abusive.

Are You Battered or Abused?
Check out MenWeb's listing of resources for battered men

Click here for books on battered men.

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Click here to return to MenWeb's Battered Men page

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Domestic Violence in Washington: 25,473 Men a Year
According to a Nov. 1998 Department of Justice report on the National Violence Against Women Survey, 1,510,455 women and 834,732 men are victims of physical violence by an intimate. In Washington, that's 42,824 women and 25,473 men. That includes 2,754 on whom a knife was used, 5,508 threatened with a knife and 11,016 hit with an object. Here are the data.

Help for Battered Men Practical suggestions, Hotline numbers, on-line resources. Print it out and hand it to a man you think may be battered--your caring opens him up to talking about it.

Men's Stories Here are some personal stories by battered men, and links to sites with more of them. The more we talk about it, the more we tell our stories, the more we increase public awareness that men are battered and encourage battered men to get the help they need. Send us your story, so we can post it here (anonymously, of course, unless you tell us differently.)

What's Wrong with the Duluth Model? The "Duluth Model" is the approach most widely used for perpetrator treatment--but it gender polarizes the "people problem" of domestic violence.. What's wrong with the Duluth Model? It blames and shames men. It's based on ideology, not science. It ignores drinking, drugs and pathology. Only one cause, only one solution. There's no real evidence it works. It ignores domestic violence by women. Women who need help can't get it. It's taught by wounded healers.

Latest Research Findings National Violence Against Women survey shows 37.5% of victims each year are men. Men are at real risk of serious physical injury. Murray A. Straus looks at controversies in DV research. Martin Fiebert examines reasons women give for assaulting men. JAMA emergency room study shows equal number of men, woman victims.


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